Successful Founders Come in All Shapes and Sizes (but have three things in common)

I’ve been in the entrepreneurial space for six years now and there is one thing that I can say for sure is that no one entrepreneur is remotely the same.

There is no mold or type in the world of disruption – just distinctive individuals who understand who they are, and don’t make apologies for what they want whether it’s for their business, or out of life.

Some are planners, some are chaotic, some are detail focused and some are all about the vision – yet all have done the following to build businesses that are worth millions.

So if you are an entrepreneur looking to scale your business, here are the tips I’ve learned from those at the top.

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Focus on your strengths (and know what strength means to you)

It is one of the biggest cliches bandied around the startup world. “Just focus on your strengths and outsource your weaknesses or even the things you don’t enjoy.”

But the statement lacks context. People forget to talk about how you identify strength. As Marcus Buckingham (an author and a strength strategist), puts it: “Strengths are not activities you’re good at, they’re activities that strengthen you.”

Focusing on your strengths does not mean making life as easy as possible for yourself. It is actually the opposite. Understanding what will help you to grow and the activities that make you stronger is likely to require some brutal home truths.

For example, it is not about saying ‘I don’t like spreadsheets, therefore, I’ll outsource the finances.” Dig a little deeper and try to understand why exactly you don’t like spreadsheets. Maybe it’s because you don’t like structure or detail? Or perhaps your brain doesn’t easily process numbers in large chunks?

Once you understand that situation a little more, you will also learn a little more about yourself – which will help you see the opportunity within the issue and grow accordingly. Instead of outsourcing the entire finance function, maybe you could outsource the bookkeeping and get them to give you top line numbers? Having a working knowledge of the numbers strengthens you and enhances your position in your company.

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Improve your ‘bounceback’ rate (i.e finding a routine way of dealing with emotionally draining times)

‘Build resilience’ is another cliche, but one that is well worth practicing. Business is full of ups and downs, and when it’s your own you’ll celebrate every win, and feel every loss It can, and will be a rollercoaster., and most of us who create something of our own are hardwired with a perfectionist streak that doesn’t deal so well with the downs.

These inner critics – ‘shitty committees’ if you will – in our heads love it when we make a mistake and have a knack of finding ways to tap into our fears, fuelling anxieties that prefer us to stand still, rather than pushing forwards.

The good news is that it is possible to silence the committee and break out of the box with a little awareness and a disciplined bounceback routine. For example, for some to shake off small mistakes they take a trip to the toilet for a five-minute panic before tackling head-on. For others, it is a 24 hour period of moping followed by a boxing class the next morning to literally release the aggression you feel towards yourself.

Follow this with a super conscious effort to let it go, move on and stop you from thinking about it again.

Sure – it sounds basic enough but it’s the discipline of sticking to the routine you’ve committed to which makes the difference and allows you to move forward.


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Find the right kind of support (by actively making a plan to find your people)

From my experience, this amount of discipline can be found in high-performing individuals.

Performing at your best as an entrepreneur requires the same skills, strength, and rigor as professional athletes, musicians or leaders of any country.

But here is the final cliche: it can get pretty lonely at the top.

The entrepreneurs that succeed get around this by actively surrounding themselves with others going through similar journeys.

They collaborate, meeting to share war stories and support each other. They are friends who compete with each other – just like the Brownlee Brothers in a triathlon. Just because they are competing doesn’t mean they can’t support each other.

And if at any point you are in doubt that these traits and discipline yield results then just think of the most successful people in the world (Bill Clinton and Steve Jobs) – they all have a track record of bouncing back, operate in the same circles and have glaring weaknesses… and they definitely didn’t apologise for it.


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